Be the change you want to see in the world.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Some Things I Learned in 2006

1) No matter how thin you slice it, some men are just scuzzes. Flee such men. Some men are also awesome. Keep those ones. Learning to differentiate between the two -- now that's a growing up thing.

2) Moreover, we're all capable of being just a little bit scuzzy.

3) It is a stupid and artistically stunting idea to direct the same show twice in eight months.

4) It's the friends who will feed you peanut-butter-and-chocolate bunnies and Irish whiskey at three o'clock in the morning after you've been dumped by the love of your life who are the ones that matter.

5) You should never trade long-term happiness for a few cheap kicks.

6) If you've got a dream, you should go for it and worry about its practicality or lack thereof another day.

7) It is a depressing fact of life that there are no 7-11s in the greater metropolitan Atlanta area, and no workable substitute.

8) God really doesn't give a flying damn about chapel veils and the problems of Vatican II; go solve world hunger and fight to end the culture of death, then maybe you'll have time to worry about whether He wants you to wear a doily on your head.

9) Nothing ever works out as planned. Get used to it. What we call curveballs, God calls opportunities for grace.

10) Don't ever bring your cute best friend to any wedding where hot guys potentially are.

11) Mountain Dew Amp is the greatest invention since the wheel.

12) You can love someone a hell of a long time after they're gone.

13) People die, suddenly, frequently, and often. Make sure they always know you love them -- just in case it's the last time you ever get to tell them.

14) Your mother really was right.

15) Teachers do not go home at 3:30 p.m., no matter how easy you in your naivete think their job is. Teachers go home at 10:30 p.m. -- and then work for a few more hours.

16) You can get by on charm for about fifteen minutes. After that, you'd better know something.

17) Call home.

18) Credit cards are the devil.

19) Furniture is overrated.

20) Boys are also overrated.

21) Shoe shopping is the greatest therapy the human condition may ever know.

22) Lindsay Lohan is a talentless hack, and she looked better as a redhead.

23) Romances between two people who both work in theater do not bode well for anybody.

24) Eleven hours is not too long a drive for a hug and a homecooked meal.

25) I have accumulated some really scary ex-flames over the past year. I have also accumulated some very cool ones.

26) Do not rekindle old flames unless you're sure you can handle the conflagration.

27) Your high school friends have known you since you were like, fourteen. If you're going to trust anyone's judgment of your character, trust theirs.

28) Keep at least one friend around who tells you the truth when you least want to hear it.

29) Don't text and drive.

30) Stay away from brainless hot jocks.

31) Most decisions made after midnight are stupid ones.

32) Prank calls never, ever, turn out well, particularly when alcohol or ex-boyfriends are involved.

33) Posting everything about your personal life on the internet is asking for trouble.

34) Everyone has dated a Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction. If he boils your small pets, run.

35) You can never be too rich, too thin, or have too many socks.

Monday, December 25, 2006

From Ahaz to Zerubbabel

Come Christmastime every year, we often hear these oh-so-familiar seventeen verses from the first chapter of Matthew at church:

"A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham: Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar, Perez the father of Hezron, Hezron the father of Ram, Ram the father of Amminadab, Amminadab the father of Nahshon, Nahshon the father of Salmon, Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David. David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah's wife, Solomon the father of Rehoboam, Rehoboam the father of Abijah, Abijah the father of Asa, Asa the father of Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat the father of Jehoram, Jehoram the father of Uzziah, Uzziah the father of Jotham, Jotham the father of Ahaz, Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, Manasseh the father of Amon, Amon the father of Josiah, and Josiah the father of Jeconiah and his brothers at the time of the exile to Babylon. After the exile to Babylon: Jeconiah was the father of Shealtiel, Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel, Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, Abiud the father of Eliakim, Eliakim the father of Azor, Azor the father of Zadok, Zadok the father of Akim, Akim the father of Eliud, Eliud the father of Eleazar, Eleazar the father of Matthan, Matthan the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ. Thus there were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Christ."

From an English teacher’s standpoint, the story of salvation history, for being God’s bestseller and the greatest story ever told, begins with some majorly plodding exposition.

As a little kid at midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, I would of course let loose my few requisite giggles at the funnier names like "Jehoshaphat" and "Uzziah", then, when roundly berated by my parents for giggling during Mass, promptly fall asleep through the rest of the genealogy. My next real exposure to Matthew’s genealogy was at seventeen when, during my freshman year of college, my then-boyfriend and his friends adopted "Abijah", son of Rehoboam, as a sort of celebratory interjection akin to "Dude!" (Ex.: "Abijah! I just kicked your ass at Halo!") And even when studying Scripture in college theology courses, I would typically skirt over the genealogical passages in order to get to the good stuff. I mean, seriously -- what with a mysterious star and singing angels and visiting shepherds and wandering Magi and fleeing into Egypt, whether or not Shealtial begat Zerubbabel seemed an awfully superfluous point.

Yet, in the words of the incomparable G. K. Chesterton, “If you look at a thing nine hundred and ninety-nine times, you are perfectly safe. If you look at it the thousandth time, you are in frightful danger of seeing it for the first time.” Tonight, at Christmas Eve Mass, I found my eyes restlessly wandering down the page of my missal during the interminable litany of the ancestry of Christ. My gaze came to a full stop on verse 5: “Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab . . .” The name “Rahab” rang a bell. I paused to filter through my atrophied knowledge of random Old Testament trivia, and vaguely recalled her as some prostitute who helped save Israel by offering hospitality to spies sent by Joshua, Moses’ successor.

Intrigued, I moved on to verse 6. “David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife.” David, of David and Goliath fame, of course we all know. The “man after God’s own heart”, who in a moment of weakness, succumbed to his lust, slept with Bathsheba, knocked her up, and then sent her poor husband Uriah to sleep with the fishes to cover his own tracks. Yet here in Matthew chapter one, we find that the incarnate God of the Universe Himself chose to descend from the lineage of this sometime slipshod adulterer and murderer.

In verse three, we find mention in the lineup of “Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar.” While a seemingly innocuous listing, a few minutes of Old Testament reconnaissance will reveal that Tamar disguised herself as a temple prostitute and was impregnated by her father-in-law Judah with twins Perez and Zerah. We are talking some terribly twisted and bizarre people with whom the Savior of the world chose to share bloodlines.

Uzziah, whose name I found so amusing in childhood, started out all right but, on a serious power trip in 1 Chronicles 26, recklessly appropriated the office of the High Priest, burst into the sanctuary, and burned incense himself.

Ahaz, another of Jesus’ great-great-great-granddaddies, was a wicked king of Judah (check out 2 Kings 16) who brought about his own kingdom’s ultimate subjection to the Assyrians by choosing to ignore the warnings of the prophets Isaiah, Hosea, and Micah. He died a tragic death at thirty-give, and Scripture tells us he was such a wretch that he wasn’t even permitted burial in the sepulcher of the kings.

Baffled, it suddenly dawned on me by the middle of the Christmas Eve Gospel reading, with my kid sister beside me snickering over "Jehoshaphat" and "Uzziah", that a disproportionate number of the ancestors of Jesus Christ were heathens, prostitutes, murderers, foolish rulers, and worldly failures.

To me, this revelation means two things this Christmas season that I wanted to share with you.

First, that we have a God Who is so gloriously nondiscriminatory about His offer of salvation that He rolled up His sleeves and entered into grubby, dirty human history to die a grubby, dirty death on grubby, dirty Calvary Hill for the sake of a bunch of grubby, dirty bipeds who really, at the end of the day, didn’t deserve such an awesome outpouring of divine humility; that He has called to Himself not only the pious and unsullied and innocent of the world but also the St. Peters, the St. Thomases, the Mary Magdalenes, the St. Augustines, the Tamars and the Rahabs, and used all of them, whatever their walk of life, whatever their failings, whatever the enormity of their past sins, to fulfill His plans and accomplish His purposes; that, fortunately for all of us, God wants to take us as we are, where we are, beaten and bruised and lazy and flawed and sinful and wallowing in the muck, and with the transformative workings of His grace, make something beautiful of us; that He has chosen the weak of this world to shame the wise, and that His power is made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Second, that sometimes God’s plans take a seemingly haphazard and roundabout path to reaching their culmination, and we often fail to recognize them because they don’t come to us in the packaging we expected. Yet if Jesus Christ Himself was descended from a bunch of hookers and hit-men, none of God’s more convoluted workings in our own daily lives should ever take us too much by surprise. I know in my own life, if it weren’t for some painful and unhappy detours which the past two years of my life took, providential happenstance would never have landed me in a random city six hundred miles south of home finding the most amazing job of all time. I am thus eternally grateful for some of life’s dodgiest curveballs sent in love by one who knew what I needed better than I knew myself, and for the incognito workings of grace that ultimately got me where I needed to be. “For we know all things work together for good, for those who love the Lord, who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

I guess, ultimately, this is all just to say thank you, each of you, for touching my life so markedly in the unique and individual ways you have over the past days and months and (some of you) years. I love you all.

Have a merry Christmas, and a happy New Year!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

The hardest job you'll ever love

I got the role of Shelby in Steel Magnolias -- which means I have 260 lines to memorize in the next week. When I get back in January, I'm not only doing this show, I'm also directing Guys and Dolls at the high school, flying to D. C. to help chaperone the kids on the March for Life, going on a missions trip to the poorest area of West Virginia over spring break, teaching five classes, and possibly going to Honduras at the end of the semester.

On that note, how can I possibly sum up the last five months of my life in Georgia thus far? As you know, I've been an inconsistent blogger, at best. The only explanation I can offer is that in my declining years (all twenty-one of them), I've begun to shy away from some of the more flagrant forms of emotional exhibitionism of my salad days. I guess I've just become more aware of the fact that some things are sacred, even in the twenty-first century. I guess I'm changing, in some little, unforeseeable, nearly unnoticeable ways.

In the last week or so, I've written finals, graded finals, posted grades, shipped report cards, and have in some quasi-official capacity or another become at last entitled to the appellation "high school teacher". What have I learned thus far?

It's been busy. Insanely busy. I've barely had time to breathe. I've been, for all intents and purposes, Dougie Howser, Ph. D -- the youngest member of the faculty with the most to learn. I spent a good 50-70 hours a week at the school. I've had parent-teacher conferences. I played Annie Sullivan in The Miracle Worker. I directed a Georgia State High School Association award-winning production of Midsummer Night's Dream, taught The Scarlet Letter, The Great Gatsby, and Huck Finn, explored Plymouth Rock with the Pilgrims, wandered in Walden Woods with Thoreau, and learned about the American Dream from Jefferson, Paine, and Patrick Henry. I rolled my eyes at my students' interpretive dances of rafting down the Mississippi and their expository essays about getting an XBox 360 for Christmas. I've stayed up till 4 a.m. chaperoning coed retreats and 2 a.m. making donkey ears for the fall play. I had a whole lot of fun and (hopefully) imparted at least a little bit of knowledge. I listened to woebegone sixteen-year-olds cry to me about their breakups, chaperoned high school dances, sang karaoke with my kids while setting lighting cues for a show, wept at their defeats and rejoiced in their triumphs. I've learned to field intricate moral conundrums like "Is getting drunk a mortal sin?" and "How far is too far?" like a pro. I've made some amazing friendships with my awesome colleagues who continually inspire me to strive for the highest and to continue to touch these kids' lives. I've watched my students buy shoes like mine, make "your mom" jokes because I do, read Gone With the Wind because it's my favorite book, and pick up my facial expressions, favorite vocabulary words, and mannerisms. I've laughed. I've cried. I've learned that whether I notice or not, they're watching and emulating my every move. I've taken some small part in causing starry-eyed faces to light up in amazement over a sudden glint of understanding of Gatsby's green light or Hester's scarlet A. I've had sixteen-year-old boys who would rather be playing Halo and sixteen-year-old girls who would rather be painting their nails stop by my classroom after their finals were already done with to discuss individualism, existentialism, moral theology, Dostoevsky, and their everyday lives -- just because they want to talk to me.

I started this semester praying to be delivered from the pangs of broken hearts and unrequited love, beseeching God, O Divine Master, grant that I may never seek so much to be consoled as to console, to be understood as to understand, to be loved as to love. As a result, I've tried to instill charity in all that I've done, even when it's been at its most insane and hectic, to love, even when there is no return. I've failed, often. I've gotten stressed and cranky and unhappy and mean. But for all the craziness and the spasticness and the 15-hour workdays and the crying students and the irritable parents and the conferences and the red tape and the zany moments, there's a quiet joy underpinning the whole endeavor that I'm not sure, having once tasted, I could live without.

Sure, it has its wretched moments. But I love my colleagues. I love my superiors. I love my students. I love my job. Right now, this is my life, and right now, this is where God wants me to be, right smack-dab in the middle of podunk Fayette County, Georgia, doing what I'm doing. No, I'm not the person I ought to be yet, and I'm not claiming to be, but these kids make me realize anew every day how much I need to be better, for their sake -- but most of all, for my own.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Steel Magnolias

Midsummer was over, Christmas break was coming, life was finally calming down...

And just when you thought it was safe to go back in the bloggernacle...

My Miracle Worker director -- who's friggin' awesome -- is directing Steel Magnolias this winter and I'm auditioning for him after work tonight. (I think he's having me read for the Julia Roberts role?)

I'm officially a glutton for punishment.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Help: Angsty and Stuck in a High School!

I'm sitting in my classroom. I've spent 25 of the last 36 hours here.

The whole school has strep throat and so do I, I've given out more detentions this week than I care to think about, I've been working my tail off because the one-act competition is next Saturday, parent-teacher conferences were all last night, I've been at school for going on twelve hours now today helping decorate for homecoming and showing other schools around our sound and lighting board alternately (and I have to stay at least till halftime at the game tonight because I'm announcing homecoming court)... I'm dead and exhausted and want to sit and cry and have someone hug me.

I had an awesome time last night hanging out with one of my coworkers, though. I desperately needed to get away from school and chill after all the P/T stuff, so we went and wandered around a local park and explored it (we fenced with sticks - I felt about five years old again), and then hit McDonalds. It was sweet.

I'm just so... tired. If you don't hear from me, or I owe you money or something, I'm really not avoiding you. Well, I am, but I'm avoiding everybody, so take solace in that.

Peace, love, and pixie dust. To my friends: I love you, but don't expect to hear from me till Christmas. :)

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Walker Percy (great Catholic-literary-revival-novelist) is the man. I'm currently reading The Moviegoer. He's a singularly brilliant thinker. Concise, but brilliant nonetheless.

"We love those who know the worst of us and don't turn their faces away."

"You can get all A's and still flunk life."

Thursday, September 28, 2006

'Mid pleasures and palaces though we may roam...

Hurray! I'm going home tomorrow for a three-day weekend in Maryland and Virginia -- woot! In the words of Bon Jovi's unlikely country-music duet with Jennifer Nettles, "Who says you can't go home? There's only one place that calls you one of their own."

On that note, I have several friends who I think have literally dropped off the planet. It's really disturbing. All I can figure is that the rapture must've happened and I got left behind.

But, once I find that they are, in fact, alive, all will be well.

Life is good.

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